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Vote: Is Liverpool wasting its 2008 legacy?

Laura Brown wonders if the city can afford to take its eye off arts and culture

Published on February 21st 2011.

Vote: Is Liverpool wasting its 2008 legacy?

SITTING at my desk this week I had two really rubbish pieces of news in less than half an hour.

There seems to be a lot of anger and frustration, stemming, as it usually does, from a lack of communication

First, I was told A Foundation was closing. An ambitious contemporary arts venue, A Foundation was initially set up with funding from James Moores. It was home of the Bloomberg New Contemporaries strand during the Liverpool Biennial and had an incredible warehouse space that seemed totally unrecognisable from one exhibition to the next. It also hosted some amazing parties, which I barely remember so good were they.

Most importantly, possibly, A Foundation was based by Jamaica Street.

Not far from the current home of the Liverpool Biennial and the Novas CUC building, A Foundation moved to this commercial, dockside district less than five years after it had been populated after dark by kerb crawlers and dodgy dealings.

To me, it marked a courage unlikely to be found in any industry other than arts and culture, the ability of a cultural organisation to lead the way in regeneration and reclaiming a dark, dank neighbourhood. The Arts Council says the organisation is no longer viable.

Reeling from that shock I got a second piece of news. The inaugural Liverpool Boat Show, due to launch in a matter of weeks, is being cancelled. Fewer people are buying yachts, apparently, and sponsors have pulled out.

The Tall Ships and various waterfront festivals have shown if you host an event on Liverpool’s docks, thousands will come. The city had estimated over 400,000 people would have visited the city over the course of the festival, which would have brought in some much needed cash.

It’s not as though Liverpool’s cultural life has come to an abrupt halt. The city just hosted a mixed arts event Threshold Festival. FACT and Tate’s Liverpool hugely successful Nam June Paik exhibition is entering its final week, Liverpool Sound City begins in a couple of weeks and Africa Oye, a celebration of African culture and music enters its 20th year this summer after securing funding. This summer, the city’s first international photography festival, Look 11, will launch.

But it is a time for reflection.

It’s only three years since Liverpool was all bells and whistles, yelling about its European Capital of Culture status with an ambitious programme. Revitalising and rejuvenating the title and making a year never to be forgotten, one of the continuing messages was legacy, legacy, legacy.

Well, how’s the legacy looking? Spending hundreds of thousands on one day in Shanghai to promote the city might have reaped dividends, but no one’s been told about them. Similarly a Liverpool Embassy in London, for many, seems to be doing little more than generating a big fat cuttings book.

Liverpool’s arts community never expected to be protected while jobs were lost in other sectors, far from it. But there seems to be a lot of anger and frustration, stemming, as it usually does, from a lack of communication.

Liverpool in the 1980s was marked by poverty, hardship and an ongoing battle with a Labour council and a Conservative prime minister. I don’t think anyone expected post-2008 the city’s arts would flourish while funding was slashed countrywide, but they did expect a sea-change; an agreement never to return to the “bad old days” and a desire to see Liverpool in the papers for something other than kicking off, as we say up here.

If a legacy is truly to be realised, the city needs to recognise the arts community has built a wonderful foundation. Don’t knock it all down yet.

Do you agree? Yes or no. Vote, halfway down the home page.

This article first appeared in Arts Professional

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11 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousFebruary 16th 2011.

Liverpool's arts and culture are like cockroaches, they will survived. the best art thrives without the helping hand of authority. Don't forget, in Liverpool, Eric's, the Zoo scene, the fashion scene all grew in the Thatcher years. As did the wonderful and soon to be knocked down Everyman which was in its heyday with the likes of Ken Campbell and Glen Walford taking risks and creating a glorious explosion of culture that had not the watchful eye of the council on it. The cuts may prove to be a blessing in disguise for culture.

OrdinaryCitizenFebruary 16th 2011.

Begone Ms Laura and take your arty farty glitterati with you. When we are wondering how we can look after our old, care for the disabled and maintain our libraries and swimming pools, you're worried about mising out on a few freebize booze up. Just re-read what you said above.... It also hosted some amazing parties, which I barely remember so good were they.
Well if the arty farty brigade are so concerned about the A place, let them run it as part of Big Society, digging into their own pockets. They all must have saved a bob or two over the years at the expense of the citizens. It's payback time. The whole gang of you will just drift over to the next art experience, if there are any. Oh and the A place didn't exactly set the world on fire in 2008. My guess is if you headed out into the streets and asked where the A Foundation is 99% wouldn't have a clue. I bet 99% of casual passers-by in Jamaica Street wouldn't have a clue either. Sorry but the A Foundation may have been good (who knows) but it won't be missed. In fact give it a couple of weeks and it will be completely forgotten.

saladdazeFebruary 16th 2011.

Why turn this into a local pointless fight? Why does it become 'what do you want? culture or services for older people?' That's a false dichotomy, as we say in Page Moss. In a decent society we don't have to make invidious choices like this. But we do have to make choices. For example: services for old people or Trident? Good neighbourhood schools or bankers' bonuses? Social housing or Tory tax avoiders? Libraries or illegal wars? A 'big society' or Tory BS? Fair taxes and the lack of illegal wars and class crime are the price we pay as a subscription to live in a civilised world. The capital of culture year was brilliant and the Liverpool arts scene continues to be so. But things like this can't survive on genius and volunteers alone; they need a democratic funded framework - what we called civilisation until the flocking bustards took power.

No Jose wayFebruary 16th 2011.

Now then, Ordinary Citizen, begone with your nasty little remarks. This is about more than the A Foundation, it is about the cultural legacy from 2008.
Laura is right about the big "Legacy" word which was the whole foundation of culture year and the bid. Now it seems like that never happened.
Is it the council's job to protect that legacy? Hard to say, but you cannot condemn someone for asking the question. And who doesn't like a party? Did you not get invited or something.

I, for one, never went to the A Foundation and I suspect most of Liverpool has never heard of it either.

This is because they were not so much hip, cool and secretive, but utterly shite at publicising themselves. I am in the know, and even I didn't know!

Salad Daze, you are, as ever, correct.

ShaggerFebruary 16th 2011.

The A Foundation may be mourned in the arts cliquey faggy world, but in real terms it has no relevance whatsoever in this city. just a lot of people busy doing nothing that they wanted to share with the people of liverpool. Art must have an impact on people. A Foundation couldn't be arsed with that.
The CUC people must be shitting themselves now/

ShaggerFebruary 16th 2011.

What I meant to say, however, is I agree with Laura in that we should look after the arts here. Still room as the Daze sez

PerplexedFebruary 17th 2011.

Does voting 'yes' agree with:-

(a) "Is Liverpool wasting its 2008 legacy?"
(b) "the city can afford to take its eye off arts and culture?"

Olde TymerFebruary 17th 2011.

‘Anonymous´ is talking complacent, nostalgic gibberish. It´s all very well saying how great things were in the eighties, but the Everyman, Eric´s, the fashion scene etc. were only open to people with a little bit of money in their pockets, money from the boom in public sector jobs in the Council, the Dole, the Job Centres, the Tax Office, other Civil Service departments, schools, colleges, universities and all the extra staff taken on to deal with youth unemployment.

In 1987 the Council alone employed 31,000 people. It´s now a sixth of that and a quarter of those jobs are going soon!

I loved Eric´s, but I couldn´t afford to go there until I got a job. The myth that it was great to be young, working-class and on the dole in those days was just that; a myth, and one peddled by middle-class people who were slumming it in the name of ‘street credibility´.

ordinarycitizenFebruary 17th 2011.

OK folks, it's homework time. Laura Brown asks if Liverpool is wasting its 2008 Legacy. I never thought there would be a legacy anyway as it was essentially an event-led year and when the gigs are done they are done. For example Simon Rattle brought his band to Liverpool during VCulture year and performed a sell out gig at the Phil. That sell out was nothing to do with 08. Is Simon has taken his band to Manchester, Leeds, even a Godforsaken place like Bootle, it would have sold out. Now here's your homework....
1. What is this year's European Capital of Culture.
2. What was last year's European Capital of Culture.
3. What is next year's European Capital of Culture.

Answers, or more like non-answers please to Laura Brown.

Extraordinary CitizenMarch 23rd 2011.

How can normal British people answer those question?

The British media is so pro-American it will report kittens rescued from trees in New York but completely ignore big news stories about Europe.

Can 'Ordinary Citizen' name ten, or even just five heads of the twenty-seven states populated by half-a-billion people off the top of his head?

I doubt it.

Even the American press looks down its nose at the British press.

AnonymousApril 6th 2014.

Voting is irrelevant if it comes down to money, no one seems to know what is important art, culture or just nothing is any one really listening I am but I am surprised at the answers so far. Look forward to the next persons suggestions.

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